It shouldn’t need to be said that a campus police officer has no business demanding that a professor remove a sign from her window. It especially doesn’t need to be said that three campus police officers should not be doing so.
However, that’s what happened at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, which was recently the center of controversy over the renaming of a building that had previously been named after a UNC Chapel Hill alumnus who was also a high-ranking member of North Carolina’s Ku Klux Klan chapter.
UNC Chapel Hill’s Board of Trustees renamed the building as Carolina Hall despite student protestors’ calls for the building to be named for Zora Neale Hurston, an author and one of the first black female students to attend the university. Altha Cravey, a geography professor, showed her support for the protest by posting a “Hurston” sign inside her window.
This sign was the reason why a campus police officer, who was soon joined by two more officers, came to her office on August 7. They told Cravey that the sign violated the school’s posting policies and asked that she remove the sign. They “eventually” went away after Cravey was adamant in her refusal to take down the sign.
Cravey rightfully noted that it’s inappropriate for a campus police department to waste the university’s resources by spending officers’ time demanding a professor remove a sign from her window, saying:
I wasn’t afraid of them but it’s certainly disturbing to me that I work at an educational university and it takes three police officers to take a sign down on my window—and I have every right to put whatever I want on my window.
Fortunately, UNC Chapel Hill issued a statement in response to Cravey’s concerns that notes the campus police officers were wrong to go after Cravey’s sign:
Regarding your request for a synopsis of the incident at Carolina Hall, one campus officer on a routine patrol went into the building to remove the signage in question. A short time later, two other officers showed up to assist. Campus police officers are occasionally asked to enforce facilities policies. We realize this particular signage represents a sensitive issue, and public safety and administration officials have agreed that the facilities policy in question shouldn’t apply in this case.
This is the end result one would hope to see at a “green light” institution, which UNC Chapel Hill is. We’re glad to see that UNC Chapel Hill has acknowledged that its reaction to Cravey’s poster was excessive, because, as we’ve noted before, signs are not threats or weapons and do not necessitate a police response.
Photo: Paige Ladisic, The Daily Tar Heel